The struggle and a peek at possible salvation …

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

It has been suggested that I interview someone with lung disease as a subject for my blog posts. I decided that, as a beginning, I tell the story with which I am the most familiar… ours.

Jim and Mary Nelson – Our story – Part 2


Predictably, the lungs continued to get weaker, the breathing more labored, the shortness of breath more frequent. Western Colorado became a struggle. Finally, at age 65, we sold our accounting practice and moved to Tucson for the lower elevation. I was actually able to survive without the oxygen for a couple of years in Tucson, but then the progression again reared its head. Back on O2 for sleeping and for exercising.

The stubborns took over again. I set out to learn all that I could about my disease, in order to better deal with it. In doing so, I became involved with the American Lung Association as a teacher and inspirational speaker. I vowed to become, and have in fact become, the rare COPD patient who exercises religiously, talks about COPD to anyone who will listen, and who anticipated dying with the disease, rather than because of it.

I taught COPD classes and talked to patients, caregivers, and potential patients for their benefit, to try to help them understand and cope. However, the big secret (maybe not so big….) is that it helped me more than it did them!


One of the subjects in the classes was lung transplantation. It is the only true cure for COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and a host of other lung diseases. It is major surgery, a massive insult to the body of the recipient, but it removes the offensive lungs. It is a procedure reserved for those lung patients who are otherwise in good physical and mental condition, but who are obviously headed for the exit due to the deterioration in their ability to breathe.

A good friend attended one of my classes and revealed to me that he had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. He was facing an almost certain death, an eminent death, without the intervention of a transplant. We kept in touch, and I was delighted several months later when he called to tell us that he had just received two new lungs! He urged me to investigate the possibility of a transplant for myself, but I protested that I was 71 years old! I had already done a bit of investigating on my own, to the point of being turned down by one transplant center.  Their age limit was 65. Bob informed me that he was 72, and that I was being an idiot if I didn’t contact the transplant center at St. Joseph’s in Phoenix.

Figuring that I had little to lose, I made the phone call that would totally change my life … turns out that all of the research, the exercise, and the stubborns that kept me going all of those years were to finally pay off! Mary and I had tried our best to stay healthy, to keep our bodies and our attitudes in good shape. We had the first of many meetings with the transplant team and were approved for the amazing variety of tests that were to determine that, despite 70 years of things like bacon cheeseburgers, I was in remarkably good shape. The lungs, not so much, but that was what we were determined to fix!

~ Uncle Jim

Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.

If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, learn more about CAIRE wearableportable and stationary oxygen concentrators by visiting or calling 1-877-704-0878 to talk to an oxygen advisor. 

When using any oxygen therapy device please consult the applicable product instructions for use for product indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and detailed safety information.

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